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Croatia coach Dalic urges players to focus on Malta, not Russia clash

Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalic has made it clear that his players need to focus on their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Malta rather than on the highly-anticipated clash against Russia of few days later.

The 2018 World Cup runners-up are currently second in Group H on 17 points, two behind leaders Russia.

Croatia will face Malta at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali, this Thursday, before hosting Russia in Split on Sunday in a potential decider for an automatic qualification to next year’s World Cup.

In the previous international window, Croatia were held to a 2-2 draw on home soil by Slovakia which saw them slip from top spot in the qualifying group.

“We have to games ahead us and two victories separate us from our objective,” Dalic told a news conference in Croatia.

“The first game is always important and therefore the Malta clash is crucial for us because if we win, we remain in contention for the top spot of the group.

Malta is an opponent who cannot match our quality, but we have to be serious, patient and responsible in our game. They have been training for the past seven days and therefore we have to be wary.”

Dalic pointed out that there is always pressure on the Croatian side, but he is upbeat on the fact that his team can thrive under such circumstances.

“There is always pressure, but I don’t feel it because we have to win if we want to avoid additional qualifications on our way to the next World Cup,” the Croatia coach said.

“We have to be ready for everything, expectations are high but we have to progress step by step.”

Dalic explained that he might rest some players against Malta, especially if the result becomes a favourable one during the 90 minutes of Thursday.

Nonetheless, he wants his players to stick their heads on the Malta clash before starting to talk about the big clash against Russia.

Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has dropped from the squad whereas Torino’s Josip Brekalo is subject to a late fitness test and he might not join the squad for the upcoming two qualifiers.

In addition, captain and stalwart Luka Modric has missed Real Madrid’s recent game due to a virus but according to coach Dalic he should be available for the upcoming international window, at least for the Russia meeting.

SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS:
Dominik Livakovic (Dinamo Zagreb); Simon Sluga (Luton Town, England); Ivo Grbic (Lille, France).

DEFENDERS:
Domagoj Vida (Besiktas, Turkey); Dejan Lovren (Zenit SP, Russia); Borna Barisic (Rangers, Scotland); Dujeta Caleta-Car (Marseille, France); Josip Juranovic (Celtic, Scotland); Josko Gvardiola (Leipzig, Germany); Borna Sosa (Stuttgart, Germany); Marin Pongracic (Borussia Dortmund, Germany); Josip Stanisic (Bayern Munich, Germany).

MIDFIELDERS:
Luka Modric (Real Madrid, Spain); Marcelo Brozovic (Inter, Italy); Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, Italy); Nikola Vlasic (West Ham United, England); Luka Ivanusec (Dinamo Zagreb); Lovro Majer (Rennes, France); Luka Sucic (Red Bull Salzburg, Austria); Kristijan Jakic (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany).

FORWARDS:
Ivan Perisic (Inter, Italy); Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim, Germany); Bruno Petkovic, Mislav Orsic (both Dinamo Zagreb); Marko Livaja (Hajduk Split); Antonio Colak (Malmo, Sweden).

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